Jeff Bezos successfully completed the first crewed suborbital space flight on his Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft. It managed to break several records at once: the oldest, youngest, and richest astronauts flew into space at once.
Along with Jeff Bezos, the crew consisted of his brother Mark, 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk, and 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen, who replaced the Blue Origin auction winner, who bought a seat at an auction for $28 million, but could not participate in this flight due to scheduling conflict. Therefore, he will go into space on the next flight.
Before the start, the flight participants underwent a 14-hour training, where they learned safety instructions and how to move in the cabin in zero gravity. They also had a space flight simulation and an overview of the rocket to study the principle of its operation.
The entire flight lasted about 10 minutes, 4 of which the crew members spent in zero gravity, reaching the Karman line, the boundary of space at an altitude of about 100 kilometers.
After four minutes in zero gravity, the capsule began its descent and parachuted, landing in the West Texas desert. Jeff Bezos thanked Amazon users for his journey to space in a post-flight press conference: the billionaire sold the shares annually to fund Blue Origin.
The 18-year-old is the son of Joes Daemen, the CEO and Founder of the Dutch company Somerset Capital Partners. Oliver Daemen graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before obtaining his private pilot's license over the next year. From September 2021, he will study physics and innovation management at the University of Utrecht.
Joes Daemen previously purchased a ticket for another New Shepard flight and was supposed to fly in place of the unknown winner of the Blue Origin auction, but decided to give the ticket to his son.
However, even before the flight began, social media users reacted negatively to the initiative of Bezos. For example, several petitions appeared on the Change.org platform at once to prevent the entrepreneur from returning to Earth:
However, Jeff Bezos did not become the first billionaire in space. Just 9 days before him, Richard Branson took off on his company's spacecraft:
At a press conference following the flight, Bezos said that Blue Origin already had flights booked for nearly $100 million. The billionaire added that two more space flights would take place by the end of 2021.
Flights by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are indicative of a growing interest in space tourism. In addition to Branson and Bezos, billionaire Elon Musk plays an active role in this area. His company SpaceX will send the Inspiration 4 mission on its Crew Dragon by the end of 2021. Moreover, musk himself has already announced that he is going to go into space on Branson's VSS Unity spacecraft.
Other companies are already planning commercial space flights as well. In particular, NASA has signed a contract with Axiom Space for the first commercial flight to the International Space Station in 2022.